Walter Dillingham was a business visionary who had the ability to see value in things others pushed aside — such as the swamp land that Ala Moana Center was built on.
In that case, Dillingham was decades ahead of everyone else.
“Any community, to really look toward the future, has to have a dream and then you have to have the wherewithal and the will to go towards that dream,” said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell. “I think this is a continuation of that dream that started back in the 1920s. Here it is 2014 and we have now a dream for the next couple decades. It’s going to change this area.”
Change is in full swing. The Kakaako skyline is dotted with tower cranes and many are on the Ala Moana property.
“For many years, there hasn’t been very many cranes up in downtown Honolulu or in this central part of Honolulu, so the idea that the whole industry is again making progress and building homes for many people in the area, but also revitalizing this major mall to meet the needs of the public for many years to come,” said Bill Wilson, president of Hawaiian Dredging Construction Company Inc.
Ala Moana is already a 24-7 operation and home to more than 3,000 jobs. Soon, it will also be home to more people.
The Howard Hughes Corporation and a joint venture of The MacNaughton Group and Kobayashi Group are developing ONE Ala Moana, a 206-unit luxury condominium tower which is scheduled to be completed by December.
Then, starting next summer, construction on the 215-unit Park Lane Ala Moana will begin. The ocean-facing ultra-luxury condominium project is being developed by The MacNaughton Group, Kobayashi Group, BlackSand Capital and General Growth.
“It will essentially run from the corner of Piikoi St. all the way just short of Neiman (Marcus),” said Francis Cofran of General Growth Properties, the center’s general manager. “There will be seven buildings (with) eight stories in each building.”
Completion of Park Lane Ala Moana is scheduled for 2016.
When you look even further into the future, Ala Moana Center will literally take center stage with the city’s Transit Oriented Development plan.
“When you think Ala Moana, you think about shopping, but what we see being built around Ala Moana now is residential,” Caldwell said. “So it’s about people living in the urban core in a more vertical way but coming downstairs at street level and above the street to celebrate life and to walk just makai one block and you’re at this great park.”
“It’s a tremendous family neighborhood,” said Harrison Rue, community building and Transit Oriented Development administrator. “Most folks think of Ala Moana as just the shopping center, but there are already a lot of families that live in the area and up mauka and we want to better connect those neighborhoods to the gathering place at Ala Moana.”
Ala Moana is already a major hub for the city’s bus system with nearly a third of all routes coming through the mall. Trolleys also bring hundreds of visitors from Waikiki everyday.
In 2019, Kona Street, will be a major transit station for rail with access directly into Ala Moana.
“Ala Moana is a neighborhood really. If we do it right, people who live in that area will get to know each other again. Life could actually slow down,” Caldwell said.
Hawaii residents are counting on that.
“You don’t want to wreck it. You’ve got to be really careful as you redevelop that you don’t break the good spell, the good feelings that people have for it because you don’t want to lose your clients,” Brown said.
“As a local boy growing up in Hawaii, it’s very important to keep that local connection and, I think, Ala Moana, we do that. We strive to do that,” Cofran said. “I think it’s important that we remain a sense of place and the uniqueness that Hawaii brings.”